Most days out of the month, John Marrero’s daily routine is up to him. As the publisher of The Swell Dealer, a newspaper for tourists and expats, he sets his own schedule. John keeps an eye on business but it doesn’t take up much of his time.
Plus, it’s a no-stress environment—in Tamarindo, a funky seaside beach town on Costa Rica‘s northern Pacific coast, business is a casual affair. As he walks around his adopted hometown, he makes sure his stands around town are stocked. He takes meetings with advertisers and businesses but he has plenty of free time to take his dog for long walks, hit the beach, spend time with friends, and travel.
“I like that Tamarindo is a big small town. It’s not too sleepy. There’s always something going on…golf, tennis, surfing…you can go out on a sailboat,” says John. “I get up and I do what I want. And the people here are great—there’s no shortage of people to hang out with.”
When John arrived in Tamarindo to live full-time in November 2014, he saw something missing in his new community. “It was obvious to me that there was a lot going on. But it was hard to find out what and where. I’m a musician, and I wanted to know where the music was. I would ask people, and they would know just a few places,” explains John. “And walking around town, I would see signs for different happy hours and deals at different restaurants.”
So, he decided to put all the information in one easy place. “I had the idea for putting together a newspaper with a calendar of events, which makes it nice and easy to read,” explains John.
The Swell Dealer started a little less than two years ago, and it’s seen tremendous growth, quadrupling in size. It’s making a tidy profit. “We do well. It pays for my expenses like HOA fees and utilities, and I can even save some money,” says John, who owns his condo. “All the revenue comes from businesses paying for ads. It’s free to the people.”
The first issue of The Swell Dealer, which came out in July 2015, had 12 pages. Today, The Swell Dealer has grown to a robust 44 pages. And about 90% of the advertising for each monthly issue is already sold. Many advertisers have long-term arrangements, says John, including real estate agencies that often buy ads for a year-long period.
Full page ads run $400, a half-page $225, a quarter page $150, one-eighth $100, and one-sixteenth $75. For long-term arrangements, there are discounts.
For John, it’s a whole new life and a much-needed respite from his 18-year career in the corporate world back in Chicago, which he says was “stressful, long hours, and a lot of work. I’ve lost about 30 pounds since I got here. So having the time to just be more active has been tremendously beneficial health-wise,” adds John.
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